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40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the before-my-appearance-in-the-womb dept.

Operating Systems 138

gribll writes "October 2009 marked an important milestone in the history of computing. It was exactly 40 years since the first Multics computer system was used at MIT. The interview is with Multics co-developer, MIT Professor and Turing Award winner Fernando J. Corbato. Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service) is regarded as the foundation of modern time-sharing systems. Multics was the catalyst for the development of Unix and has been used as a model of operating system design since its release four decades ago. There is also a picture gallery of Multics history."

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Favorite quote (5, Funny)

alecto (42429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064196)

"In hindsight we might have picked a simpler language than PL/I, . . ." Now there's an understatement!

Re:Favorite quote (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065568)

Yeah, you're not kidding. PL/1 was one of the first languages I learned back in the early 80's and I'm ever so glad that I never had to put that knowledge to any real use other than academics. Though I did find my old box of programming manuals from back then and right on top was my PL/1 and APL manuals from IBM. I wonder if those are worth anything these days...

Remember punch cards (0, Offtopic)

jessica77 (1676594) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064216)

I have a fellow in my office who cannot seem to stop talking about punch cards, he also has a dilbert cartoon for it. Life has changed so much with the advent of computers, especially the desktop PC's / MACs

Re:Remember punch cards (1)

rotorbudd (1242864) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064320)

Punch cards on a Singer,,, yes the sowing machine company,,,mainframe.

Re:Remember punch cards (1)

hammarlund (568027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066074)

Sure, punch cards, and I also remember paper tape that used to write from and read to teletype terminals connect to an IBM 360 or something back in college. How old am I?

Re:Remember punch cards (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30066774)

Singer made farming equipment?

+1 funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30067466)

nt

Re:Remember punch cards (1)

Tycho (11893) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066098)

The last time I saw punch cards in use was in the late 1990's. Granted this was more of a reuse, the "users" were my Geology professors. A three or four inch tall stack of punch cards with thick straight lines from a marker on the edge of the stack worked well as a model for rock deformation when the stack was flexed. Oh, you mean using punch cards in a computer, no, I've never seen that.

Re:Remember punch cards (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066682)

I started work in the early 90s, and I only missed them by a year or so.

I do remember seeing the output from the C**** compiler there and noting that it was older than I was.

NGOML!

obligatory (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064242)

But can it run Vista?

obKanye (3, Funny)

Fortunato_NC (736786) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064308)

Hey Multics, I'm really happy for ya, and imma let you finish, but UNIX is the best multiuser operating system of ALL TIME. OF. ALL. TIME.

Re:obKanye (0, Offtopic)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064362)

Huh? youa noa speaka noa sensea!.

Re:obKanye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064778)

Nah plan 9 kick unix ass

Re:obKanye (2, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065632)

I don't get it. Kanye is probably the single lamest meme since the beginning of the Internet. And it's a even more lame media "scandal" that "nipplegate". By an order of a magnitude, at least.

Badger badger looks like deep Chinese philosophy, written in the words of Shakespeare, in comparison.

Can we get back to "In Soviet Russia, car is analogy of YOU" jokes, please? :)

Re:obKanye (0, Offtopic)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065936)

Redundant?? I was the first and only one complaining about that at the time of submission.

Retarded moderators again?

Re:obKanye (-1, Flamebait)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30067494)

Is Slashdot in some kind of Internet time-warp where moderators are *just now* seeing this meme and, therefore, somehow think it's still funny?

Re:obKanye (2, Insightful)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30067506)

Bah. Unix is just Multics with the balls cut off.

Stupid Comment (3, Interesting)

omb (759389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30067690)

Corbato designed and taught the Architecture that underpinned the UNIX developers and Martin Richards (of Cambridge UK) later, in 1970, brought BCPL, evolving into B, C, ... (_but_ definitely not C++)

Professor Corbato got so many things right on the GE645 that he, Gordon Bell, Maurice Wilks and Tom Kilburn were the generation of _REAL_ uber-architects in the 60/70 s; with Gene Ahmdahl and Fred Brooks doing the engineering heavy lifting, Chris Streachy and and the MIT school (Marvin Minsky and many others) did the philosophy.

Without their contributions the Computer Industry would never have started

MULTICS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064352)

Multiple Useless Large Tables In Core Simultaneously.

I wish it never died! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064360)

I had to use it at a large energy company in Europe in the 1980s. It was actually a fantastic system.

Unlike VMS and IBM's mainframe OSes, it was actually pretty friendly to use. This attribute has clearly rubbed off on UNIX. While we'd spend months teaching some users how to use VMS, they'd get Multics within a few days.

The programming environment was also fantastic. It didn't support as many languages as VMS, nor did it have language interoperability that was as good, but it still supported more languages than you'd fine on typical UNIX systems of that era.

That said, it still was a beast compared to UNIX. UNIX was sly and sleek, and thus supported lower-end hardware better than Multics could. And UNIX was more portable, which eventually made it more widely available.

Still, I look upon my Multics days with a fondness I didn't find again until the early 2000s, when I was able to get a position administering a network of FreeBSD servers.

Re:I wish it never died! (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064760)

My recollection from the early 80s is that it had fantastic language interoperability, especially compared to other systems at the time.

On Multics you could pass variables from one language to another using full declarators allowing each language to inspect the value and type and more of each incoming variable, and act accordingly, and most of the Multics languages supported that in the compiler.

So PL/I could call into FORTRAN and on and on.

It's been a long time, I could easily be wrong about this, but that's what I remember.

Re:I wish it never died! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30065888)

I think you're thinking of VMS.

Depending on the languages being interfaced, MULTICS requires the marshaling to be done manually. It wasn't complex code, by any means, but a set of wrapper routines and data translation routines were needed.

Some implementations didn't require that, however. When I used MUTLICS, we wrote our code in a mix of ALM, PL/1, COBOL and FORTRAN. The COBOL and FORTRAN compilers were from the same vendor, and supported immediate interoperability. The PL/1 compiler was from a different vendor, and required us to write very simple bindings.

Re:I wish it never died! (2, Informative)

joebagodonuts (561066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066118)

VMS isn't "friendly to use"? Really? I guess maybe it isn't if English isn't your first language, but what could be more friendly than DCL?
If I need help, I type "help". If I need to copy a file, the command is "copy". If I want to rename a file, guess what the command is? You guessed it - "rename"

Plus, the uptime is tremendous, which is a VERY friendly attribute.

Re:I wish it never died! (1)

joebagodonuts (561066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066144)

Perhaps you meant MVS? MVS is downright hostile!

Re:I wish it never died! (2, Interesting)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066394)

I was wondering the same thing. UNIX more friendly than VMS? Huh? UNIX has some positive things going for it, but of all of the command line operating systems I've used, it's actually towards the bottom of user friendly-ness.

Re:I wish it never died! (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066912)

The ability to "copy" a file without having to worry about it's type put Unix way ahead. And real hierarchial directories with a sensible syntax without different rules for the levels! (something that Microsoft refuses to learn after decades...)

I was very impressed, having come from using VMS for about 2 years before I started on Unix (I was at Dec and they had a small VAX running BSD because they wanted to port a CLU compiler from it to VMS). This was 1982.

The commands were cryptically short, so I certainly immediatly added "alias" for everything to get the commands I was familiar with. However I disagree about help, the "man" pages were enormously more useful than anything VMS "help" ever coughed up. Also it was about 100 times easier to write working C programs (on VMS it was easier to translate C into BLISS than to try to get a C program to link).

I did like the VMS editor better. I'm not even sure what I edited with on the Unix machine, it may have been vi? Or even TECO.

Re:I wish it never died! Revisited (1)

omb (759389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30068078)

TECO is fine, and VIM is almost as good if you know, and enable Perl.

but remember, "BLISS is IGNORANCE" all those '.' s, Duh! PDP-10 Algol was written in BLISS by Wolf from CMU,
and reading it made the head hurt.

A final thought, why can not manufacturers write working assemblers, and more linkers for their platform,
all the industry stuff, except the PDP-10 assembler (aka MASM in modern terms) and all manufacturer linkers
have been crap!

BTW the reason C was a mess is that Ken Olsen's brother wanted it so; an earlier Balmer style
interoperability Canute!

Re:I wish it never died! (3, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#30067804)

Hmm, I always considered VMS to be more user friendly, at least to novices, than Unix. Unix was full of cryptic shorthand commands. Ie, "help" vs "man -k", "search" vs "grep", "edit" vs "vi" or "ed" or "ex", etc. DCL was very quick to pick up compared to Unix sh, even though sh had more power.

Essentially I think VMS had a shallow learning curve where Unix was pretty steep, but the shallow curve meant it took you longer to learn how to do really powerful things. The result was that it was faster to become a functional user with VMS, but you got to be a power user more quickly with Unix.

Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . . (2, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064364)

. . . Thompson and Richie decided to start a less ambitious project, called Unix?

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (3, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064470)

Yeah, that "was the catalyst" line is great. You can come up with all sorts of equivalent expressions. Like "MS-DOS was the catalyst for Linux", or "horse manure was the catalyst for the automobile"

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064952)

Horse manure is not a catalytic converter for automobile. That's just pure horseshit.

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30065218)

That was horrible. Seriously. Stop trying.

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30065820)

Stop arguing with myself!

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (1)

gv250 (897841) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065708)

"horse manure was the catalyst for the automobile"

Just because it couldn't be more off-topic, The Horse & the Urban Environment [enviroliteracy.org] describes this relationship quite well.

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30067586)

Man, you just solved the fuel crisis.

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30068080)

"MS-DOS was the catalyst for Linux"

Come on, MS-DOS was the best operating system MicroSoft ever produced!

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064524)

That and they like what Multics offered but didn't have the hardware to support it.
Of course the Current version of Linux or BSD is probably more "bloated" then the last version of Multics.

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064634)

Yes: the Multics kernel was 250 K (I'm not sure if that's thousand words or thousand bytes, but keep in mind that this was the era of 36-bit words and 9-bit bytes) in 1983. Multicians.org has all the classic legends and misconceptions here: http://multicians.org/myths.html#slow

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064836)

That is 250K SLOC. SLOC stands for Significant lines of code. Heck I have seen applications that rival that. Multics was small and looks pretty light. To bad it was impossible to have written it in c instead of PL/1. Had it been in c it might still be around and useful.
Multics predates c BTW so it couldn't have been written in c. It could have been ported maybe but by then we had Unix.

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066944)

Actually there were not really any "bytes" at all, as in addressable units smaller than the 36-bit word.

Various software would store ASCII in the words in different ways, using 6x6, 7x5, or 4x9 bits for them.

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (3, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065822)

Of course the Current version of Linux or BSD is probably more "bloated" then the last version of Multics.

Sure, trade in a 40 year old operating system for two 20s, just because its a little bloated after giving you the best years of its life... Does this tty driver make my kernel look fat?

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066876)

Hey whats wrong with getting a trophy OS. You know an OS can never be too thin or too new :)

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064558)

Bloat isn't really the right word. Multics had a lot more features than UNIX, and some really nice ideas (like the fact that files and memory used the same interface), but it required very high-end hardware for the time. It was a mainframe OS. It would not run on a minicomputer and so UNIX was written to port a game from Multics to the spare minicomputer that Thompson and Richie had access to. It turned out that UNIX, while inferior, was good enough for a lot of things, but saying Multics is bloated compared to UNIX is like saying Linux is bloated compared to MS DOS 3.

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (3, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065640)

It turned out that UNIX, while inferior, was good enough for a lot of things...

It's amazing the number of times in computing where something, while inferior, was good enough for a lot of things and ended up dominating...

Not limited to computing... (1)

interploy (1387145) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066296)

It's amazing the number of times in computing where something, while inferior, was good enough for a lot of things and ended up dominating...

It's a demonstrable effect in most industries really. McDonald's is a perfect example. "Good enough" seems to be the sweet spot for garnering mass appeal.

Re:Not limited to computing... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066862)

It's a demonstrable effect in most industries really. McDonald's is a perfect example. "Good enough" seems to be the sweet spot for garnering mass appeal.

And that's where Microsoft excels: knowing just how much to squeeze you and when. Gates was a gifted poker player, after all.
     

Re:Um, wasn't bloated Multics the reason *WHY* . . (2, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#30067904)

Linux and BSD are positively bloated compared to the first Unix systems. It first ran on a computer with only 64K after all. Unix wouldn't have survived if it had stuck to the first few versions, it would be far too limiting. What made it succeed, as opposed to its contemporaries, was that it was relatively portable and could migrate to better computers when they came along, and it was relatively open (for the time) so that others could grow and adapt it.

"Bloated"? Oh, FFS. (3, Funny)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064682)

It's true that Multics couldn't get out of its own way on a system with 64K of RAM, although it was technically supposed to run on that configuration. To work well, it really wanted several hundred K of RAM. Thank heavens we left it in the dustbin of history, replaced by the crisp, clean efficiency of Windows, or OS X, or Linux.

If memory serves... (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064382)

Unix (Eunuchs) [wikipedia.org] is the castrated version of Multics.

Re:If memory serves... (1)

iroll (717924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065650)

Pretty sure it's a play on a different word:
Multics: multiple
Unix: one (latin: unus)

Re:If memory serves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30066218)

It's both. Ken Thompson was aware of the inferiorities of his design with respect to security.

Hmm, Multics and Sesame Street, both 40 years old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064480)

Coincidence ? I think not!

Re:Hmm, Multics and Sesame Street, both 40 years o (4, Funny)

satellite17 (816105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065312)

indeed,

This episode of Multics was brought to you by the letters P and L and the number 1

Re:Hmm, Multics and Sesame Street, both 40 years o (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065358)

Yes... That is what a Coincidence is. When 2 things that seem to have a connection while they don't

40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (4, Interesting)

omar.sahal (687649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064494)

Multics was very influential, it provided Ken Thompson an example of what not to do. In other words, stick closely to the KISS (Keep It Simple) principle.

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064596)

Not really. Most of the features of Multics were eventually added to UNIX derivatives, but because they were added piecemeal by various different vendors over the years, they lack the coherence that they had on Multics.

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (1)

omar.sahal (687649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065152)

Firstly I have never used Multics, so I can not directly comment on its superiority (or lack thereof) over Unix. However according to a interview for Unix: An Oral History [princeton.edu]

Various accounts I’ve read of UNIX, Ritchie’s retrospective on it, and even an interview you did with some people for a video back in 1981 talk about the system as being, or UNIX as being, sort of culling all the best ideas in operating systems that emerged during the ‘60’s.

Ken answered

My background for obtaining these ideas was .... I worked on CTSS, I used CTSS per say. I used CTSS and did some, a lot of programming on CTSS and I worked on MULTICS.

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064610)

KISS (Keep It Simple)

You'd think "Keep It Simple" would be abbreviated "KIS" ;)

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (2, Funny)

Stupid McStupidson (1660141) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064702)

Well, it's better than: "KIS,YSFM"

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064746)

KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid !

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (1)

omar.sahal (687649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064926)

Sorry I meant
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (1)

pregister (443318) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065984)

Maybe he just wanted to provide the Keep It Simple and was hoping you'd provide the Stupid?

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066804)

The phrase itself was used as a stupid detector, eh?

Re:40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064766)

You may want to keep in mind that the UNICS name (originally spelled that way) was chosen, indeed, because Ken Thompson figured he was neutering Multics. As such, your post is seriously a gross mischaracterisation. C and Unix were originally designed to be what worked at the time: nothing but pure klugetastic hacks. No one expected AT&T to turn around and say "Hey, let's sell it!" when it became popular at Bell Labs.

Security in hardware (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30064594)

When I worked at the Pentagon (HQAF DSC) one of the machines I developed on was a Multics machine. The really interesting part of the architecture to me was that it had, if I recall correctly, seven permission rings from ring 6 to ring 0 and each were implemented in hardware. The OS ran on a separate processor cluster for each ring, and system level work (kernel mode) was done all in ring 0.

I enjoyed learning PL1, and found it to be an easy transition to go to Unix/C. The multics box was a beast, and stuff ran like greased lightning.

Slashdot is bad with anniversaries (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064620)

October 2009 marked an important milestone in the history of computing

and they waited until november to tell you!

Re:Slashdot is bad with anniversaries (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065382)

I hope that, at the very least, someone sent MULTICS a very nice "I'm sorry I forgot your birthday" card. Something cute, perhaps with sad puppies.

OTOH, MULTICS is 40. I know I wanted everyone to forget my 40th birthday.

Re:Slashdot is bad with anniversaries (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066794)

It would be cool if somebody could get one running somewhere and hook it up to an internet connected box. Maybe you could ssh into a BSD box then cu into the MULTICS box and get a feel for how it works.

Forty-year anniversaries -- what connection? (2, Funny)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064716)

So I've got to ask, does this have any synchronic significance with the recent 40-year anniversary of Sesame Street [google.com] recently splashed around Google's main page?

Hmm... "This episode brought to you by the letters P, L, and I, and the number pi!" :)

Cheers,

Lots of 1969 anniversaries (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064812)

The moon landing, the Internet, Multics, and lots of other things.

Re:Lots of 1969 anniversaries (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066206)

Boeing 747, "In the Court of the Crimson King", "Led Zeppelin I", "Ummagumma", "Deep Purple", the Woodstock Festival, Monty Python's Flying Circus, last public performance of the Beatles, Sesame Street... Any others?

If it was so good (3, Interesting)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064830)

If it was so good, then why aren't there any emulators for it? Nearly every other old system has emulators, but not Multics.

Re:If it was so good (2, Interesting)

cruff (171569) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065128)

A few people are trying to get emulators going, the biggest problem is the lack of documentation of the peripheral hardware interfaces used on Multics capable systems. Check out the archives of the alt.os.multics news group.

Re:If it was so good (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065680)

Just don't look at any binary posts by 'uncle_buck'.

Re:If it was so good (4, Interesting)

mike.mondy (524326) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065736)

There are a few defunct projects on sourceforge and, I think, one live effort. I'm writing an emulator, but I haven't released any code yet.

CPUs are trivial. Systems can be hard.

Writing an emulator probably wasn't feasible before the sources were released two years ago. A few people started prior to that, but I can't imagine how.

Multics ran on somewhat complex hardware. In addition to the CPU, there were several other complex components including the system controllers, I/O multiplexors, and front end processors. Some of these were programmable or semi-programmable devices and much of the documentation is missing.

Now that we have compiler listings, assembly listings, a few documents, and a boot tape, the task seems feasible. Digging through the machine code on the boot tape and in the assembly listings partially makes up for the lack of decent documentation on some of the components.

My emulator is far from complete -- and it's almost 18K lines of code. It does read the boot tape and run about 2 million instructions, but crashes before finishing the boot process. The emulator doesn't yet know about disks or support instruction restart etc. There's a lot of work left to do.

I plan on cleaning up a few things and releasing it real soon now.

Re:If it was so good (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066748)

Just in time to compete with HURD.

Re:If it was so good (3, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065716)

Well, for one theres little need and for another there is little interest. The source code for Multics wasn't released till 1992, by then it was clear that UNIX was the future, development basically stopped for Multics long before then and Linux was beginning its rise as an open source UNIX system. With no legacy software to drive a tricky system to emulate why do it? I mean, with game consoles there are the games, with PC things usually there are a few nifty pieces of software, with Multics just about everything was ported to UNIX.

Re:If it was so good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30066574)

People that used Multics "in the day" are ~50 - 60 years old now. Who wants a Multics emulator when you're too busy throwing rocks at kids and telling them to get off your lawn.

"Cancel the call for the company nurse" (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064852)

Good thing they didn't call it Unics or it would've been the butt of jokes for decades.

Re:"Cancel the call for the company nurse" (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065164)

Nah, they would have just renamed it to "Urectumix".

First introduction to viruses (4, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064884)

The implementation we used (SWURCC, England. 1978 - ?) had a "cookie monster" program. Briefly, this was a process that wandered randomly around the logged in users, occasionally taking control of their VDU and sending the message "I wanna cookie" It would only give you your screen back once the user typed "cookie". Swearing at it got you disconnected.

I have a feeling that this "feature" got removed very soon after it snarfed the Computer Unit Director's screen.

Re:First introduction to viruses (1)

thvv (92519) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066254)

Chris Tavares wrote the original Cookie Monster program in 1970. Story is at http://www.multicians.org/cookie.html -- sounds like you used a descendant of the original. Source is available online. The program did not wander randomly: you had to start it while logged in, and it would then sleep and pop up messages later. People used to prank their co-workers when they found a terminal unattended.

Re:First introduction to viruses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30066782)

I am thw and I am wearing teh baggyest pants EVAHR!!!!

Re:First introduction to viruses (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066406)

I remember seeing that in the documentary [imdb.com] .

What was Multics used for? (1)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30064996)

I remember reading that Multics was going to be the OS used to provide computing-as-utility; everyone was just going to be able to use it. Did this plan ever pan out (was Tymnet and Telenet Multics-based?) Who, then, were the Multics customers and what, if anything, spawned from it (other than Unix and VisiCalc, as mentioned in TFA)?
 

K.T (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065032)

Later in his career Ken Thompson [wikipedia.org] had corrective eye surgery, changed his name to Kim Thayil [wikipedia.org] and was the lead guitarist of Soundgarden...What an amazing talent.

Re:K.T (1)

Jerrry (43027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066378)

Damn, and all this time I though Thompson and Ritchie retired from Bell Labs and formed ZZ Top [wikipedia.org] .

Can you (4, Insightful)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065062)

Can you really rate it as 40 years, since the last operational site was shut down in 2000? Shouldn't the timer stop when it dies, like with people? Do you give Columbus's age as over 500 years?

Re:Can you (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065802)

Must have been a sad life, after you asked your parents why they didn't celebrate your birthday, and they answered: "We will celebrate, when you're dead!" :P

Real-Time, too! (2, Funny)

delphi125 (544730) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065420)

As Roger Needham [wikipedia.org] quipped, Multics was design for the real-time processes of geological processes.

The Michigan Terminal System... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065478)

...came first.

I was a Multics user and code developer (4, Interesting)

nani popoki (594111) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065522)

in the 1970s. I programmed in PL/1. While the language was complex (being a synthesis of the most difficult-to-implement features from FORTRAN, COBOL and Algol), it certainly was a fine development environment *on Multics*.

I still miss the clean user interface (all command-line arguments meant the same thing, no matter which command was being executed) and fine documentation. But the GE645 / Honeywell 6800 architecture was never well-enough documented to make emulation feasible. And the descendants of Multics have implemented most of the features more-or-less. The world has moved on.

I've moved on, too. In 1978 I taught myself C; I've since learned and continue to program in C++, Java and Python, having discarded along the way Lisp, Pascal and Delphi.

And I use Windows mostly now. But my memory tells me that Multics was often faster for routine things like searching the file system. (Though the filesystem back then was only a few hundred MB.) And the processor back then was good for about 1 MIPS. Forget about color graphics. Animation? That was for cartoonists.

Anyway, this old-timer got a chuckle out of the article; thanks for posting the heads-up.

Re:I was a Multics user and code developer (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066868)

People like you really need to post here more often.

x86 segmentation and Multics (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065524)

Don't forget the segmentation that was introduced with the 286's protected mode was influenced by Multics as well.

Multic? More like your tic (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30065528)

WTF is a multic?

Multics, comp.risks, and NSA (1)

cpm99352 (939350) | more than 4 years ago | (#30065954)

I'm surprised to see the lack of comp.risks here in the comments. Multics was a phenomenally well designed OS from a security perspective. So much so that NSA recruiters at college took an interest in you if you had Multics experience...

Memories and Friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30065998)

I was first introduced to Multics in 1984 as a freshman at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette). I was lucky, I had a PC (a Kaypro 4) and a fancy new 1200 baud modem for dialing into the system. So I didn't have to wait in line in the terminal room for seat at one of the TVI terminals. With only experience with CP/M, Multics was a real eye-opener. It was an awesome system and had many features that I still miss today.

While there I was privledged to know a fine Multician, James Dugal. His name is sprinkled throughout Multics lore. I was proud to call him friend. He is missed.

Johnie Stafford

Antithesis (1)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30066878)

In some ways, Unix is very like Multics. In some other ways, Unix is the complete Antithesis of Multics. Unix copied some of what was good, left out most of what was bad, and left some of the really cool features to be forgotten. In other words, Multics made Unix the shape it is.. and that of course influenced everything down through Linux, Mach, the iPhone, Android etc etc.

Like many other posters, I too was a Multician at university. It rocked. But I prefer my nice GUI and not having to share my processor with others!

Domo Arigato (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30067086)

Dr. Corbato

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